How do you begin to define wisdom?
Wisdom is one of the hardest values to define, because it encompasses so much and means different things to different people.
When we started to define our values, two (of the many) that popped up in our conversations were knowledge and learning. But then also came discovery and exploration. They’re all interconnected but different. We couldn’t have all of them, so how would we choose? It was then that wisdom was offered up. It is all those things that allow us to grow. To expand. To succeed and reach our potential. But it is also how we use our knowledge and the things we discover. It’s taking that information and transforming it.
Why should we emphasize learning?
In talking about wisdom and learning a quote came to mind:
Perhaps a little heavy, but it implies that we are always learning, that as long as we are alive we are discovering something.
We often associate learning with children — it’s an important part of their development as they grow up. Kids are curious, they have questions about the world around them and how it functions, its laws and limitations.
As adults we are constantly learning too. As technology changes we learn how to use new devices. We learn new skills to get a promotion at our job. We have to learn how to be parents (and relearn with every new child). The vastness of the internet allows us to learn new facts about cultures, religions, countries, hobbies, almost anything.
Confining ourselves to our limited knowledge, at any stage of our lives, is incredibly detrimental to ourselves and to the world.
Isn’t learning and wisdom different?
Absolutely. To get a little #wordnerd for a moment, learning is the accumulation of information. Whether that information is true or not. But learning can simply be memorization and we don’t necessarily do anything with what we’ve learned.
Wisdom on the other hand is “the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgement.” It’s taking what we’ve learned and using it in beneficial ways.
It’s not only about what you learn, but what you do with that knowledge that’s important. Sometimes wisdom is about sharing that knowledge, while other times, what you learn could have negative consequences and so it’s about knowing not to share it.
How do you cultivate wisdom in children?
Staying curious is the first step to cultivating wisdom, which children have in abundance. But as we emphasized, it’s what you do with that knowledge that defines wisdom.
Children are wiser than we give them credit for. It is because we exclude them from important conversations that they struggle later to make their own decisions. We tell them “You’re too young to understand” “This is an adult problem.” Sometimes we forget to include them in small decisions — what to eat for dinner, what they want to wear.
When we include children in small decisions that affect the whole family — like dinner, what movie to watch, which park to go play in — it empowers them and encourages them to think about the outcome and what effect their decisions have.
When it comes to big decisions we need to ask children for their opinion. It’s not about them coming up with the right answer. It’s about them being engaged and feeling like their voice is being heard. Even asking kids where they would like to go on vacation or how they would like their room decorated (giving them options to help them not feel overwhelmed).
What about decisions that children have no say in?
As parents we often have to make decisions that positively or negatively affect everyone — moving houses or cities, changing schools, not adopting a dog. Things we see as small, that we rationalize through, are often big deals for kids and so emotionally they react in a big way.
They haven’t seen all the factors that led you to that decision. We need to discuss with our children why we made that decision. These conversations can be framed so that no matter their age, they understand.
There’s a really interesting video that gives an example of how to reframe a conversation — A neuroscientist takes a really complicated topic and explains it to a 5 year old and a 13 year old.
Doesn’t wisdom come with age?
Wisdom comes with experience, but also from understanding those experiences. You can’t assume children will grow into wisdom. They must be given opportunities. Opportunities to discover. Opportunities to explore. Even opportunities to fail.
When we let our children fail, they learn the wisdom to overcome it. To fail and keep going. To make different choices next time.
Why is wisdom so important?
The Mazu team is setting out to awaken families with love. We believe wisdom leads to understanding and understanding leads to acceptance, tolerance, and love. While creativity is the paintbrush through which we show love, wisdom is the book through which we learn how to love others.